What Med School Never Taught Your Doctor About Vaccines

 

“Maybe the problem isn’t mothers who don’t believe in science; maybe the problem is that medical schools have stopped teaching the science to doctors.”

Back when my first baby was born, I believed all vaccines worked. I believed all vaccines were safe. When I took my firstborn to the doctor for a routine set of infant vaccines, I had a simple question for my pediatrician. I’d recently read a study revealing that babies who receive the rotavirus vaccine were more likely to suffer an intestinal disorder called intestinal intussusception in which their intestines collapse into each other. The condition is painful and deadly. I expected that our pediatrician would easily put my new-mom fears to rest. Since rotavirus is not considered deadly in first world countries with access to clean water, but intussusception is considered deadly or at least permanently disabling, I assumed he could explain why the rotavirus vaccine was so important, despite its risks. But when I mentioned the study to our pediatrician, he did not even know the study existed. When he saw my surprise, he cursorily skimmed the article I was holding and then announced that it was “hogwash.” I wanted to believe him, but he seemed uncomfortable, like a child who doesn’t want to answer his mother’s questions. If he had been well versed in the science of vaccines, I probably would have trusted him, but now I was suddenly aware that I had read more studies about vaccine safety than our pediatrician. I decided to hold off on the rotavirus vaccine and I took my eight-week-old infant home. Back at home, I dug deeper into the research—and found much, much more disturbing information on vaccines.

At least a dozen of my closest friends are doctors who have graduated from top American medical schools. I’ve spoken with many of them about their medical education. I have learned that mainstream medical schools teach their students very little about preventive health, but spend entire semesters teaching techniques to ensure “patient compliance.” Courses on patient compliance, sometimes called patient “adherence” or “capacitance,” teach doctors how to convince patients to listen to them, even when patients voice serious concerns about the doctors’ recommendations. This seems like a generally dangerous practice and a poor use of time during medical school, when there is so much to learn in such a short time. Why all this focus on patient compliance?

What many medical students don’t realize is that their education is funded by drug companies who benefit from overprescription. Most people have heard of pharmaceutical reps whose job it is to convince doctors to push specific drugs on unsuspecting patients, but did you know that those same drug companies wine and dine medical students, pay medical school professors millions of dollars each year, and begin lecturing medical students even before they are doctors?

Over the years, Harvard Medical School has received hundreds of millions of dollars from drug companies. TIME reports, “1,600 [Harvard professors] admit that either they or a family member have had some kind of business link to drug companies — sometimes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars — that could bias their teaching or research.”

Several of my pediatrician friends have told me that they are sick of mothers who don’t believe in vaccine “science,” but these same pediatricians have admitted to me that they haven’t actually read a scientific study on vaccines in years. My friends—so many of whom are intelligent, well-intentioned doctors who genuinely hope to help their patients—simply trust that their medical schools have taught them all they need to know about health.

So what do doctors learn about vaccines in medical school? Not much. A reader sent us the above screen shot of a woman taking to Instagram to complain that her roommate, a doctor, is storing live typhoid vaccine in their communal refrigerator. Most people know that live viruses are the stuff of chemical warfare, but this doctor was apparently not concerned. Why didn’t she learn how to safely store vaccines in medical school? Even the U.S. government admits, “It is the nature of living things to change, or mutate, and the organisms used in live, attenuated vaccines are no different… An attenuated microbe in the vaccine could revert to a virulent form and cause disease….”

But Pharma-funded medical schools know that if they were to teach their students about the dangers of live vaccines—including the fact that live vaccines are excreted in the mucus and feces of injected children and can even be spread to other children for days and weeks following vaccination, a phenomenon known as “shedding”—that they would be opening up a broader conversation about vaccine safety. It’s a conversation that Big Pharma and medical schools don’t wish to have.

So, instead, medical schools ignore the conversation about vaccine safety altogether. They encourage doctors to focus on “compliance,” not science.

Maybe the problem isn’t mothers who don’t believe in science; maybe the problem is that medical schools have stopped teaching the science to doctors.

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Above: A medical student’s roommate complains that “Literally the only thing on [Med Student’s] side of the fridge is a live typhoid vaccine.” The medical student was never taught that vaccines should not be stored in home refrigerators.

Sources:

Time Magazine: Is Drug-Company Money Tainting Medical Education?

http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1883449,00.html

U.S. Government: Types of Vaccines

http://www.vaccines.gov/more_info/types/

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